Game wardens in Rhode Island, known locally as Environmental Police Officers, have a particularly important role in the state because of its range of landscapes – from forests to coastal ecosystems. Rhode Island invests its game wardens with extensive powers to police crimes involving:
- Wildlife, fish, and plants
- Coastal areas
- Forest fires
- State parks and game reserves
Rhode Island’s game wardens are also deputized by the following federal agencies and can enforce related laws:
- US Fish and Wildlife Service
- National Marine Fisheries Service
- US Customs
Candidates interested in pursuing game warden jobs in Rhode Island will need to begin preparing for some of the position’s minimum requirements years in advance.
Becoming a Game Warden with the Rhode Island Division of Fish and Wildlife
Meeting Requirements – Environmental Police Officers are employed with the Rhode Island Division of Fish and Wildlife under the umbrella of the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, and must therefore meet the standards for employment as spelled out by this agency. Of these, one of the most important is having a bachelor’s degree in Biology, Natural Resources, or a related discipline.
Experience is also required for employment. It should be in a field that involves having the powers of arrest and working with natural resources law enforcement.
A bachelor degree in any of the following may also help to fulfill the employment and experience requirements, and is preferred for federal positions:
- Crime Scene Investigation
- Criminal Justice
- Law Enforcement
- Police Science
Other game warden requirements in Rhode Island include:
- Knowledge of how to use firearms
- Familiarity with state laws having to do with fish, wildlife, boating, and hunting
- Good physical condition and moral character
Applying to Work with the Rhode Island Bureau of Natural Resources – As officers of the State BNR, candidates will need to fill out an application with the Rhode Island Office of Personnel Administration’s Division of Human Resources. This is a basic two-page application which solicits information regarding previous education and employment. If applicants are chosen to continue in the hiring process, they can expect to complete:
- Agility performance test
- Drug screening
- Psychological test
- Panel interview
Intensive Training – Because they are deputized by several federal agencies and have sweeping state powers, game warden training in Rhode Island is extensive, and will take new cadets from Maine to Texas. A new recruit will learn how to become a game warden in Rhode Island in programs offered by over a dozen different agencies:
- Rhode Island Municipal Police Training Academy in Lincoln
- Basic and Advanced Marine Law Enforcement Training courses in Glynco, Georgia
- Fish and Wildlife Investigative and Undercover Techniques Training in Glynco, Georgia
- US Coast Guard’s Living Marine Resource Training at Otis Air Force Base on Cape Cod in Massachusetts
- State Crime Lab’s University of Rhode Island Criminalistics School in Kingston
- Breathalyzer Operator Training through the Rhode Island Department of Health
- Smith and Wesson’s Small Arms Course in Springfield, Massachusetts
- Cooper Institute of Aerobics Research’s Aerobics Law Enforcement Physical Fitness Testing in Dallas, Texas
- International Association of Marine Investigators’ Marine Theft Investigators Training School
- FBI Training Center’s Small Arms Instructors Training
- Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission’s Boat Accident Investigation and Advanced Accident Investigation courses in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
- Ross Leffler School of Conservation’s Wildlife Forensics course in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
- 10-12 days of annual in-service training
- Strayer University - Bachelors of Science Degree in Criminal Justice
- Michigan State University - Online Master of Science in Law Enforcement Intelligence and Analysis
- Saint Joseph's University - Online Master of Science in Criminal Justice
- Utica College - Online Bachelor's of Science in Criminal Justice
- Penn Foster - Online Wildlife and Forestry Conservation Career Diploma
Becoming a Federal Game Warden
Besides state Environmental Police Officers, there are also federal fish and game wardens operating within the Rhode Island’s borders. These positions have their own set of requirements and application procedure. The federal process of how to become a fish and game warden in Rhode Island involves completing an application for US Fish and Wildlife Service Special Agents through the USA Jobs website.
Applicants with a bachelor degree in fields related to Criminal Justice and Wildlife Management are preferred and must be US citizens between the ages of 21-36.
Candidates for these federal-level jobs will need to make it through an application process that includes:
- Medical and psychological evaluations
- Drug test
- Fitness test
Once hired, federal game wardens must complete over a year of training that starts with 20 weeks covering criminal investigations and wildlife law at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynco, Georgia. This is followed by 44 weeks of field training with an experienced officer.
The Current Need for Game Wardens in Rhode Island
The importance of game wardens in Rhode Island could not be more obviously demonstrated than in a recent case involving poachers of the American eel, which can sell on the black market for about $1,000 per pound. Five poachers were recently arrested thanks to the efforts of state game wardens, who alerted local police departments along the coastline of the threat posed by this menace. Because of their high value in Asia which can drive their price as high as $2,000 per pound, the American eel in Rhode Island is now listed as “stressed,” in part because of illegal harvesting.
In the state’s more inland forests Environmental Police Officers are hard at work preventing other types of poaching, such as for deer. There are five groups of notorious deer poachers known to Environmental Police Officers, and it is their duty to gather evidence against these criminal operations through surveillance, crime scene investigation, and witness interviewing. One retired officer cited the poaching groups as either killing for the $100 of meat a single deer is worth or simply for fun. However because of more serious issues, officers are sometimes forced to pursue bigger fish while the smaller ones get away.
Rhode Island Wildlife Officer Salary
Rhode Island’s environmental police officers of the Department of Environmental Management earn a salary of between $45,469 and $52,008. Additional salary increases are possible through promotion to environmental police officer detective and detective captain.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals that as of May 2018, game wardens in Rhode Island earned one of the highest average salaries in the nation, at $77,710, behind only Illinois and Iowa. Further, the metro area of Providence-Warwick came out as a leader in terms of its concentration of jobs. Game wardens in this metro area earn an annual, average salary of $73,350.
Salary and employment data compiled by the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management and the Bureau of Labor Statistics – http://www.dem.ri.gov/programs/law/epojob.php and https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes333031.htm. Figures represent accumulated data for all areas of employment for environmental police officers. Data represents state salary ranges for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. This data does not represent starting salaries. Employment conditions in your area may vary.
Salary data accessed in August 2019.